Feeding will end after discussion with parents

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The Independent Online
THE consultant physician who has cared for Tony Bland since the Hillsborough disaster said yesterday he would stop artificially feeding him after a final discussion with his parents and that he would die peacefully within 10 to 14 days.

Dr Jim Howe, the consultant at the Airedale General Hospital near Keighley, West Yorkshire, where Mr Bland has been nursed for more than three and a half years, said he was not 'playing God'. He said he was relieved at the ruling and could only emphasise that Mr Bland had 'absolutely no chance' of recovery. A statement would be made when Mr Bland had died and it was likely that his parents would be with him at the time of death.

Dr Howe said that ceasing artificial feeding would not cause Mr Bland to starve to death: he would probably fall victim to an infection or kidney failure. He added: 'It is something doctors are doing all the time. It is called palliative care. If someone is dying from cancer we help them to die free from pain and comfortably. We are not going to keep people alive for ever.'

Asked whether he felt the hospital authorities should have had to go through the legal process before deciding whether or not to stop treating Mr Bland, Dr Howe said he did for a variety of reasons. He said: 'First of all it is necessary to protect people like me and the nursing staff from accusations of murder. Secondly, to make sure that patients like Tony are properly looked at by independent experts to make sure the diagnosis is correct.

'Some time during the next few days after the Bland family and the nurses and I have had a chance to have some talks I will not be reconnecting his feeding apparatus.

'The nurses will continue to care for him exactly the same way as they have done over the last three and a half years, and over the next seven to ten days, based on the experience of American doctors who have been able to do this over the last 10 years, we expect him to just quietly slip away.'

Mr Bland's parents, Allan, 57, and Barbara Bland, 54, have said that they have been waiting in the hope of attending their son's funeral to overcome the pain of his death. They now plan to explain their feelings through a series of articles in the News of the World.

(Photograph omitted)